And they hopped in circles, heads bowed - by Sarah Hunter

And they hopped in circles,

         with their arms folded back.

Like professors of grief,

       garb white and black. 

As Alice looked on,

She recalled his tale.

With his cloak wrapped tight,

 and his croak so frail.

He was irked by the fleeting mention in text

When his cousin the crow,

 had stolen the scene, Indeed,

                                                he was vexed.

“I could never describe you as monstrous,”

 said Alice

“Your demeanour’s mischievous,

 with no hint of malice.”

The old bird cocked his head,

        ‘neath the shadowy hood

And Alice smiled back,

        feeling pleasantly good.

She stood to her feet,

       and smoothed down her apron

That was the end,

            of their brief conversation.

The cold and exertion had taken their toll

Round and round in the pool,

       of tears like a shoal,

of fish that inhabit,

the river and lake,

Not beings of feather or fur,

Such a dreadful mistake!

His old bones were chilled.

Shadowy figure invoked.

He shivered once more,

   …………………… and then croaked.


And they hopped in circles, heads bowed.


From a nearby oak,

           there came such a clamour.

Voices ascending in,

          loud, rasping chatter.

The first to descend,

Was his good lady wife.

She prodded and poked,

           to stir him to life.

When the dawning reality,

            hit like thunder,

her heart almost stopped,

then was rent asunder.

She lifted her head,

          to the towering tree.

And let out a cry,

          wrought with shock and misery.


And they hopped in circles, heads bowed.


From deep in the bustling

 canopy, there flew,

another old bird.

Wings flashed white and blue.

Like Chinese fans,

        they arched through the air.

‘til he landed beside her,

          with delicate care.


And they hopped in circles, heads bowed.


Twitching his tail,

In alarm at the sight.

His beak stroked her chin,

       to acknowledge her fright.

“Aye petal, he's gone,”

 said the old Magpie’s friend.

“Let us look for his soul,

          in the circle to send,

it onwards and upwards,

To ask the divinity,

 forgiveness for our colourful,

lack of humility.

He had a good innings,”

         he said with a wink

“Tonight we tell stories,

       of joy I bethink.”


And they hopped in circles heads bowed.


So solemn and silent,

          absorbed in their grief.

They didn't see the arrival,

         of his favourite niece.

She wept slow tears,

        that formed and pooled,

then ran hot from her eyes,

         dropped and cooled.

Recalling the nest where,

         she fledged and took flight.

He had nudged her and teased her,

       and filled her with fright.

When she finally leapt,

       he gave such a cheer!

How precious a moment,

          a memory so dear.


And they hopped in circles, heads bowed.


Landing outside the circle,

         looking a little unsure,

and causing the wife,

To turn coyly demure,

Was his handsome brother,

Who had in his prime,

Quite the reputation,

          of beguiling with rhyme,

Every female magpie,

         whether spoken for or not,

And consequently fled,

          when tempers grew hot!


And they hopped in circles, heads bowed.


Just then swooped down,

         a monstrous crow!

Who circled two times,

           as they looked from below.

He landed at last,

         with the familial hop.

Silver streaked feathers,

        crowned his head at the top.

The mourners shrank back,

      looking rather askance,

as his pewter grey grin,

       held them all in a trance.

“No more shenanigans!”

He bawled with remorse.

His glossy wings flapped,

        with considerable force.


And they hopped in circles, heads bowed.


Drawn by the commotion,

         and his keen curiosity,

Rabbit rushed to the scene,

         with composed velocity.

His tabard was starched.

His gloves pristine white.

Big eyes blinked wide,

       and his lips were pulled tight.

With his cloak huddled close,

Magpie still seemed so cold.

Rabbit noted at the time,

         on his watch made of gold.

“For the records, “ he said,

“We must keep a chronicle,

       of all life in Neverland

Weather normal, peculiar or novel.””


And they hopped in circles, heads bowed


With solemnity,

       dictating the pace,

seven magpie cousins,

      entered the space.

They bore him aloft,

On shoulders blue-green,

    to the Chapel of beech,

high domed and serene.

They laid down the body,

So empty and still.

On his heart,

His wife placed,

     a gold daffodil.

“We won't know the truth now!”

She exclaimed with a start.

“Of what really happened,

 with the knave and the tarts!”


And they hopped in circles, heads bowed.


Alice watched uncertain,

Not sure quite what was proper,

“Would this all have happened,

       if I'd not pulled that stopper?”

Tears were shed,

       and stories were told,

of a magpie whose life,

      was joyous and bold.

He will live on in their tales,

      and on in their hearts,

and in the mystery of what really,

      happened to the tarts.

By Sarah Hunter

 Magpies by Ben Andrew and Brain Ludwig RSPB-images